Growing up in New York City means seeing some of the world’s most amazing theatre productions on Broadway, so it’s only natural that NYC kids are interested in the theatre from an early age. After all, who doesn’t want to see their name in lights? We interviewed Lesley McKinnell and Stefanie Brown, the founders of the new Drama Llama Studios, about their theatre classes for kids ages 7 to 18.

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RT: What types of classes do you offer?
DL: We offer a range of classes that include the unique Page to Stage, a sampling of both playwrighting and performing where our llamas create and perform their very own original script, followed by a final performance of that staged script for family and friends on the last day of class. For kids just looking to hone their acting skills, they can take “ACT I”, a class where llamas learn the basic principals of acting, followed by a scene showcase for parents. And finally, “ACT II” is a more advanced class in acting, offered to students who have completed ACT I, which is also followed by a scene showcase. We also offer private voice, piano, audition and for older kids, college-bound coaching upon request.

RT: What will kids learn in your classes?
DL: Not only will the kids learn basic acting principles, story-telling and performing, but also they’ll learn how to work as an ensemble, which will help instill values of sharing, supporting and creating. Even if our llamas don’t intend or end up pursuing a career in performing later on in their lives, they’ll gain confidence, improve their self-esteem and have a lot of fun.

RT: What’s a Drama LLama anyway? 
DL: Being a Drama Llama means that you have a wonderful imagination. Drama Llama means that you love adventure, friends and music. Drama Llama means perhaps you’re a little “dramatic”, but our studio is a safe and fun environment, allowing kids to funnel that “dramatic” energy into a creative outlet.

We chose the name “Drama Llama” because it encompasses the truly joyful of nature of creatively-inclined children. Through our experience with kids though our careers and also part-time babysitting between acting gigs, we have come to learn a great deal about the pure, unfiltered nature of children: they see the world as a new, brilliant experience every day, and we want to encapsulate that sense of awe in an educational environment. If we can share even a little bit of the pure joy that we feel when we’re on stage or on camera with our Drama Llama students, then that’s all we can ask for!

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RT: What is your own background in theatre?
DL: We met while working on the first national tour of Wicked. We both received our BFA’s in Musical Theatre, and trained extensively in singing, acting and dancing. Even as teachers at the Drama Llama Studio, we both currently audition and work in theatre both in and outside of NYC.

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RT: How did you come to working with children? 
Stefanie: I worked with the Broadway Connection, a group that brings professional masterclasses to kids across America. I realized kids are “creative without abandon” in a way adults usually aren’t. So, I love to get the chance to play make believe again and to join them on their imaginary adventures.

Lesley: When I was on tour with Wicked, I led cast visits to the different cities’ children’s hospitals. We did crafts with the kids followed by a small performance, and for the children who were too ill to attend the actual performance, the hospital would broadcast it live to their rooms. The experience made me want to connect with children forever.

Looking for other theater classes little thespians of all ages from babies to teens? Check out our list of the top drama classes for kids

Drama LLama Studios are currently enrolling for their first semester of Page to Stage sessions for students aged 7-12 years: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays Jan 25th-March 1st. Email dramallamastudios@gmail.com for more information.

Where do your kids work on their acting skills? 
–Christine Knight